Banerji, Chitrita 1947-
Banerji, Chitrita 1947-
Born 1947 in India. Education: Harvard University, M.A.
Writer, editor, and translator.
Winner of two Sophie Coe awards in Food and History. Has received awards for her papers at the Oxford Symposium of Food and Cookery.
(Translator) Satyajit Ray, The Adventures of Feluda (novels; includes The Golden Fortress, The Buccaneer of Bombay, Mystery of Golok Lodge, and Trouble in the Graveyard), Penguin Books (New Delhi, India), 1988.
Life and Food in Bengal (nonfiction), Rupa (New Delhi, India), 1993.
The Hour of the Goddess: Memories of Women, Food, and Ritual in Bengal (nonfiction), Seagull Books (Calcutta, India), 2001.
Feeding the Gods: Memories of Food and Culture in Bengal (nonfiction), Seagull Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Eating India: An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices (nonfiction), Bloomsbury USA (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of articles, columns, and short fiction to Granta, Gourmet, Gastronomica, Boston Globe, American Prospect, Calyx, Petits Propose Culinaires, Phoenix, and Boston Magazine.
Chitrita Banerji's books on the cuisine and culture of her native India, especially the Bengal region where she grew up, deal with a tapestry of topics including gender roles, religion, and the lingering effects of colonialism. Discussing Banerji's work in India's Hindu newspaper, Arundhati Ray noted: "Food provides one of the most fascinating windows into a culture—enabling important insights into its mores and customs; tracing its social and economic history; documenting its rites and rituals." Banerji, Ray continued, "had already established her considerable talent with this genre" in her first book of culinary studies, Life and Food in Bengal, and "continues to demonstrate the wonderful possibilities" of the field in her second, The Hour of the Goddess: Memories of Women, Food, and Ritual in Bengal. This book touches on her early life in Calcutta as well as the lives of Bengali women in general, detailing how their responsibilities in the kitchen empower them in some ways and oppress them in others. She also deals with the region's history, the relationship between food and art, and differences between people from East and West Bengal. Ray praised her "impressive research" and attention towards nuances, plus her "sharp social commentary."
In Eating India: An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices, Banerji goes beyond Bengal to deal with a variety of Indian regional cuisines. She details her travels to both large cities and rural areas, describes meals at a wedding banquet and a Sikh temple, examines the growing popularity of convenience foods among the busy and properous, and explores the influences of various ethnic groups who colonized India centuries ago or have immigrated to the country more recently: the Portuguese, the Persians, the Mongols, the Jews, and others. She also goes into the Bengali customs of her girlhood.
Some reviewers thought Banerji provided a broad and fascinating study of Indian cooking and its relationship to the society as a whole. Having immigrated to the United States, Banerji brings both "the intimacy of a native" and "the curiosity of an outsider" to her study, commented a Publishers Weekly critic. This critic added that, in discussing food, Banerji also is able to touch on subjects such as "the nature of authenticity" and "the mutability of tradition." Christine Holmes, writing in Library Journal, deemed the book an "engaging work," full of "marvelous detail," that will enlighten readers on "the complexities and subtleties of Indian cuisine."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Far Eastern Economic Review, March 12, 1992, Sue Earle, review of Life and Food in Bengal, p. 29.
Hindu, December 30, 2001, Arundhati Ray, "Flavours of a Culture."
Library Journal, September 1, 2007, Christine Holmes, review of Eating India: An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices, p. 159.
Northern Virginia Magazine, September, 2007, Warren Rojas, "History by the Handful."
Publishers Weekly, April 30, 2007, review of Eating India, p. 146.